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Advantages and disadvantages of the literal rule Essay

The advantages of the literal rule is that it respects the sovereignty of parliament and prevents unelected judges from making law. Viscount Simmonds argued that it was not open to judges to fill in gaps, as Lord Denning wanted, or otherwise alter statutes. If a gap was enclosed then ‘theremedy lies in an Amending Act’ The literal rule also encourages certainty and because there is less room for interpretation, there is likely to be less litigiation. People know where they stand because the wording will not change. This also makes the law predictable. And lawyers are able to advise their clients on the likely outcome. Another advantage is that its leads to quicker decisions because the answer/outcome can be found just by using a dictionary this means it takes less time to find out the outcome of a case.

A disadvantage of the literal rul would be it can lead to absurd decisions that clearly was not wanted by parliament when the Act was made an example would be Berriman v London railway co – when the wife of a railway maintence worker couldn’t claim for compensation for his death, who died because he didn’t have a lookout when he should have, this was because her husband was only maintaining and not ‘replacing’ or ‘relaying’ the tracks. Parliament would have intend for the wife to claim. But due to the literal rule she could not. Its not always possible to word or pharse an Act to cover every situations e.g. its against the law to steal but the literal rule means it didn’t cover stealing your own property.

Therefore some circumstances that parilment intended wont be covered. Another disadvantage would be that the literal rule assumes that the parilmenty draftsmen would always do their jobs perfectly every single time, ovbiously this isnt possible as in human nature mistakes are made. For example the law commission in the 1969 report said “you cannot put emphasis on the literal meaning of words, is to assume an unattainable perfection in draftsmanship”


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